Sunday, 23 July 2017

More experiments

I have been busily sewing more stock for the craft fair in November, which is creeping ever closer.  I am going to get some business cards and postcards printed up soon and then I'll need to get on with the packaging.  I'm glad that I still have a few months to prepare.
I enjoy block printing and was wondering whether I could use my Blockwallah wooden blocks on my felt, to give a different look.  So, I tried, using acrylic paint which can be heat set for fabric and fabric paint.  I had to press the blocks firmly, but was encouraged by the results.
 Some of the images worked more effectively than others.  They have all been heat set, so the paint shouldn't come off.    I also wondered whether a bit of embroidering might add a little something extra, or some beads... I will probably make these into little decorations or bag charms.
 I liked the multicoloured images.  I have now bought some screen printing ink for fabric, which I am hoping will work well (more experimenting to come) and I have lots of ideas floating around in my head for felted backgrounds with printing on top.  I do have some time off in August so will enjoy more experimenting then.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Hydrangeas

It is hydrangea time in the garden and as, in the past, (whisper) I didn't really like them and so did them a bit of a disservice, I feel it is only right to focus on them now.  I have completely changed my opinion of them now and have several in the garden, mainly in pots.  Above is a lovely pure white one, either 'Coco' or 'Fireworks' - I lost the label.
 This one, 'Diamant Rouge' is one I bought last year and haven't seen the flowers yet, so am eagerly watching them to see what colours I get - judging from the name, I'm expecting red.
This is Merveille Sanguine and I like the way the bracts change colour from cream with a hint of green to bright pink.
 This is 'Dark Angel' which is moody and magnificent with its purple shaded leaves.  Again, it has cream and then pink bracts but it also has blue/purple flowers.
 I hadn't really noticed these before but they are stunning...
 Each flower looks like it has been outlined with white.
Finally for now is my favourite (don't tell the others), the only one planted in the border and always reliable, Arborescens Annabelle.  Beautiful, huge creamy white with a hint of green flowers.  I pruned her back (I have to call her, 'her') quite harshly in late Spring, but she has rewarded me by flowering beautifully.
Just stunning.  I enjoy the way that hydrangea flowers fade during the autumn too, so have no doubt they will appear again then.  I am really pleased that I have embraced hydrangeas - I would have missed so much gorgeousness.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Sheep!

Not real sheep, I hasten to add.  I am working on items for a big craft fair in November and thought I could make some little sheep to sit on my stall alongside my other items.  "Surely it isn't that difficult to needle felt a sheep", I rather naively thought.   Well, after many hours needle felting, here is the first of what will be a small flock (I hope).
 For only my third ever attempt at needle felting, I am quite pleased with him.  I do need more practise, but that is to be expected.
He does have a character, doesn't he?  I am going to try to make some more with long fleeces and have purchased some Lincolnshire Longwool, which has curls in it.  I followed Jenny Barnett's book, 'Needle Felting Workshops' which gave excellent instructions, but I have a way to go until my sheep look like hers!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

End of June

(collage created using picmonkey)
As we near the end of June (this year is going much too quickly), it is a good time to look at roses. June has been good to them this year, despite the baking heat last week and then the heavy rain over the last few days.  I love roses and here are just a few:
top row, left to right: Chandos Beauty, Ferdinand Pichard, New Dawn
middle row, left to right: For Your Eyes Only, The Pilgrim, Eyes forYou
bottom row, left to right, Gertrude Jekyll, Madame Hardy, Rosa Mundi
I do have some deeper pink/red roses too, but haven't taken any photos of them yet, although I probably will.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

At last - we have a wall again!

Last August, we had a bit of a disaster, when our lovely Victorian brick wall fell down, after having a lot of ivy taken away from it.  I posted about that here.

 After a few false starts, we had a bricklayer recommended to us and he duly came along and had a look at the site.  I was most concerned that my plants would all have to come out, as the long border had the brick wall as its back.  However, I was assured that all would be well.  The foundations were dug out one weekend, and it was very hard work.  Above is the view before the foundations were dug.
 The foundations were laid and the following weekend, work started on the wall. The little indentation in the concrete is where one of the ivy roots was.
 It was really exciting seeing the wall starting to go up again.  We had a choice of one brick as we needed something which was double faced and we found that most bricks aren't.  We were replacing like for like, or as near as we could, so that it didn't look too out of place with the rest of the garden walls.
This photo shows the concrete coping going on (it has all been finished now and looks great).  My plants are enjoying having some support again and I even have a little bit of extra planting area at the back...(but won't be planting ivy!)
The bricklayers and foundation diggers did a marvellous job and we are really pleased to have a wall back again. *edited to add... I totally forgot to say that Chris worked incredibly hard through one of the hottest weekends of the year, backfilling the foundations area on our side of the wall, clearing out bricks and rubble and filling a huge skip.  He was an absolute star and a huge well done to him.
I will post some more photos once I have decided which plants are going in!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

RHS Chatsworth

 I went to RHS Chatsworth last Saturday on a rather drizzly and windy day.  However, the weather didn't dampen our spirits and we enjoyed the day. Once we had arrived (being delayed for a while thanks to a bicycle race through Chesterfield which closed the road), the weather decided to be kind and didn't rain on us until we got back to the car. Earlier in the week, there had been wind and rain which caused press day to be curtailed.  I was pleased I had taken my wellies though, because we decided the word for the day was 'squelch'!
 The show had a beautiful setting and we felt there was plenty to see.  Our suggestions for next year would be more seating, more tea and proper cake stalls, and more gardening related stalls.  There were lots of stalls but many of them were 'lifestyle' or interiors related, rather than gardening.  The photo above focused on the rather lovely planting in the pot - a mix of wild and cultivated flowers that appealed to me.
 There were show gardens, beautifully planted...
 ...using traditional materials.
 I was surprised by how much I liked this alpine stream garden which was also beautifully planted.
 The area in this photo particularly appealed.
 There were stands with stunning sculptures - one day, when I have a bigger garden, I would really like one of these.
 We went into the inflatable 'greenhouse' several times on our way to and from the floral marquees.
 We also went through the bridge above, enjoying the planting.  I loved the dandelion sculptures too.
 The formality of the hard landscaping reminded me of a monastery garden with cloisters.
I also liked the mix of meadow (with cows) and formal planting.
 The movable garden was a great idea, particularly for people renting a home.
I had seen this display featured in the TV coverage of  Chelsea.  I have many happy memories of a helter-skelter like this at Hunstanton.  I managed to buy what I had on my list (astrantias x three, two little agapanthus and I ordered five camassia bulbs which will arrive in September/October.)  All in all, a good start for RHS Chatsworth.  Are we going next year?  Of course we are!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Finally finished sample felt piece

Back in February 2016 ( was it really that long ago?!), I posted about a new piece of felt I made, based on neolithic cup and ring carvings.  You can read that post here.
I found this photo to use as inspiration. (photo from:
This was my sample piece, which worked reasonably well.  I said I just needed to embroider it, to give the circles and spirals some definition and a raised texture.
Well, more than a year later, I have finally finished it.  The stitching does bring out the circles and it has raised them a bit too.  I think the felt needed to be a little thicker so that the raised areas would be more prominent.
Here are a few closeups so that you can see the stitching and the way the areas have raised.
 I do like the effect, although I wonder whether using a different stitch (rather than back stitch) would be more effective.
 I quite like the idea of chain stitch, although perhaps that might be too dominant, or stem stitch, or split stitch. That means I need to make another piece, doesn't it? (although I could have a practise on a scrap piece to see which stitch I like best).   Hmm...seeing as this one took me over a year to get finished (in my defence, I do have lots of other hobbies - gardening, paper craft, jewellery making and reading, which all need my time) perhaps I had better not make any rash promises about when I'll do it!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Latest bracelets and a splash of colour

 I have finally got round to making the wrap bracelet using Tila beads ( in a colourway called Blue Iris), based on a design I saw on Jewellery Maker, and tutorials I saw on the internet.  It was the first time I have done 'proper' bead weaving and once I got into the rhythm of the thread pattern, it was enjoyable.
 The fastening is a button and this one had been lurking in the button box just waiting for this project!
 I have also made another memory wire and seed bead bracelet which was an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so.  I added the little charms for a bit of extra movement.
I like the way it looks like three individual bracelets.  Both bracelets have been admired by my work colleagues.  My next projects are some more 6mm gemstone and silver spacer bracelets.
Chris was recently helping a work colleague to clear out a house following a death in the family and there was a mass of sewing equipment. I loved the vibrant colours of these vintage sewing threads - most were on wooden spools. I would have kept them as a colour display, as the threads themselves broke easily, so were not  really usable,  but I just don't have the space.  They have gone to a charity shop that specialises in vintage items.  I hope they are enjoyed in their new home - wouldn't they look lovely on a shelf display?

Thursday, 25 May 2017

My favourite Chelsea Gardens 2017

I always watch the BBC coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, but have never actually visited the show.  I think that when I see the crowds, it does put me off.  The TV coverage always gives a much more detailed view of the gardens too, although it doesn't give the whole atmosphere that being there would.  The RHS Chelsea Flower Show website is a great resource and  that is where all these photos have come from.  Thank you to them!
So, onward to a round up of my favourite gardens - a completely biased view, naturally. Above is the 500 years of Covent Garden by Lee Bestall, which got a silver medal.  I like the planting and the zingy blue/green of the metalwork reproduced in the planters.
 The Morgan Stanley Garden by Chris Beardshaw was given a silver gilt medal (I think it should have been a gold).  Again the planting is beautiful and the exuberance represents Mozart's music, whereas the shady area in the right of the picture represents Bach (I think).
 The Linklaters Garden for Maggies by Darren Hawkes also has some lovely vibrant planting (there is a theme here...) and won a gold.
 The Zoe Ball Listening Garden by James Alexander Sinclair offers a contrast to all the vibrant colours, with peace and shade.  The three water features all have different ripple patterns which give different sounds and apparently, if you put your foot on the gravel at the front of the garden, you can feel vibrations.
My favourite garden is the Anneka Rice Colour Cutting Garden by Sarah Raven.  Just look at those colours!  
 I would love to have a garden like this myself.
 It is filled with annuals and I particularly like the formal paths with the floofy (my word for exuberant and effervescent) planting.
More stunning planting with cooler colours in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Centenary Garden by David Domoney which got a silver medal.  I really like the railings, made to represent the 154 countries in which the War Graves Commission operate.  If you have ever visited one of their cemeteries, you'll know how beautifully they are arranged, planted and cared for.
 The Poetry Lovers' Garden was given a silver medal and was designed by Fiona Cadwallader.  Lovely dry stone walls encase the garden, with a shady seating area and rippling water feature - just the place to sit and read.
Finally, I had to include the World Horse Welfare Garden by Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith . The horse sculpture made from donated horseshoes, including one from one of the Queen's horses, is amazing.  The left side of the garden shows an uninviting area for horses, with a falling apart stable and some poisonous to horses plants, such as ragwort and on the right, the horse is free, in a field. 
From my choices, I think I am a romantic gardener, in the cottage garden style and that is the way I garden at home.  Hard edges, angles and minimalist planting is just not appealing to me.  
The gardens at Chelsea always show a great attention to detail and demonstrate a  wonderful celebration of gardening.